Salad comes from sal, as in salt. Once, salad meant greens seasoned with salt. Which remains a good recipe. Rub salt into a heap of kale or red-leaf, and the result is greater than the sum of its parts.
Salad also means "on lettuce." How else to explain grilled salmon Caesar? Salad can mean any combination, cold. How else to justify pasta salad?
Salad may be translated: "mixed-with-mayonnaise." To wit: tuna salad, egg salad, potato salad, macaroni salad, chicken salad and their sidekick, coleslaw.
The bound salads are bound by their cloak of shame: mayo. They huddle in the cooler case, suffer the picnic sideline, endure the sneers of salad snobs. Which isn't fair. Like the original salt salad, the bound salad calls for balance.
Curried chicken salad relies on fresh apple and dried cranberry, a bit of bite, and an even hand with the squeeze bottle. Chunky and smooth, sweet and spicy, chewy and crunchy square off to earn the salad not just respect, but praise.
Leaving etymologists to explain the inexplicable: jello salad.
Curried chicken (or turkey) salad
Prep: 20 minutes (plus chilling)
Cook: 1 hour
Serves: 4 to 6
2 (1 1/2 pound) whole bone-in chicken breasts
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup slivered almonds
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peel on, chopped
Roast: Rub chicken breasts with salt, pepper and oil. Settle, skin side down, in a cast-iron (or other ovenproof) skillet. Slide into a 400-degree oven and roast, turning once, until cooked through, about 1 hour.
Toast: Meanwhile, scatter nuts in a dry ovenproof skillet. Slide into the oven alongside the chicken. Toast, shaking pan once or twice, until fragrant and golden, about 12 minutes.
Shred: Break chicken into large chunks; discard skin and bones. Alternatively, start with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or, wait, what about that enormous half-eaten roast turkey? Why not? Shred 5 cups.
Toss: Whisk together mayo, sour cream, vinegar, curry and ginger. Pour over chicken (still warm is best). Scatter in cranberries. Use a soft spatula to toss. Cover and chill.
Serve: Just before serving, fold in apple and toasted almonds.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.